BCSO implements programs to limit scams

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County Sheriff’s officials are trying to help prevent financial and real estate crimes.

Bay County Sheriff’s investigators said locals lost almost one million dollars last year due to financial fraud. In response, they’ve reactivated the FIRST Alert program and also launched the Realty Alert program.

“Prevention is key in fighting these crimes, we’d like to catch them before they happen and make sure everybody else in the community knows what’s going on,” Financial Crimes Unit Investigator Thomas McQueen said.

FIRST Alert will notify local financial institutions of possible scams in real-time.

“When we catch wind of an ongoing scam or something that we’re seeing more of, we’ll put together a little memo and push it out to the people on the email list,” McQueen said.

Investigator McQueen said they have seen an increase in false identification and fraudulent checks. There has also been a surge in real estate scams. Realty Alert can help agents, brokers, and title companies.

“If they see something like they get an email or they get a call and they you know, somebody tells them hey, I want to sell my property and they later find out that this person is not the real person they send that information to us and then we can send that information back out to everybody else,” Financial Crimes Unit Investigator Krista Chastain said.

Sheriff’s officials launched Realty Alert last Friday and put it to use quickly. They received word of a possible scam on homes.com, which had a listing for a property that the owner wasn’t really selling.

“We then sent out the alert, letting everyone know and I got a phone call a little bit later from a different real estate agent who was thanking us for putting out the information because they had already signed a contract with the same person and they didn’t know that yet, that he was a bad actor,” Chastain said.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages local businesses or members of the Realty community to join the programs. If you would like to sign up email, the Financial Crimes Unit at [email protected].

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